Que­bec says Ot­tawa owes it $300 mil­lion for costs re­lated to refugee in­flux

Waterloo Region Record - - Canada & World - GIUSEPPE VALIANTE

MON­TREAL — Que­bec Premier Fran­cois Le­gault said he made progress dur­ing Fri­day’s first min­is­ters’ meet­ing on his de­mand that the fed­eral govern­ment pay $300 mil­lion in com­pen­sa­tion to cover the cost of refugees ar­riv­ing in the prov­ince.

Le­gault said Ot­tawa had pre­vi­ously of­fered to cover only the cost of lodg­ing the asy­lum seek­ers — about half of what Que­bec was seek­ing.

“This af­ter­noon they have moved for­ward a lit­tle more to say they are ready to look at other ex­penses be­sides lodg­ing,” Le­gault told re­porters at the end of the meet­ing.

Since 2017, there has been an in­flux of asy­lum seek­ers en­ter­ing Que­bec across the United States bor­der. Le­gault said it takes more than 18 months for would-be refugees to find out if they can re­main in the coun­try.

In the mean­time, Que­bec pays for their hous­ing, ed­u­ca­tion and health care costs, which have to­talled roughly $300 mil­lion over two years, Le­gault said. He said Ot­tawa is re­spon­si­ble for the lengthy de­lays in the sys­tem.

Fed­eral au­thor­i­ties pro­cessed 24,745 asy­lum claims made in Que­bec in 2017 — five times more than the pre­vi­ous year.

The pace has con­tin­ued this year, with 23,595 claimants in Que­bec pro­cessed through the end of Oc­to­ber.

The prov­ince re­ceives more than half of all asy­lum claims in Canada, in­clud­ing the vast ma­jor­ity of those en­ter­ing through non-of­fi­cial bor­der cross­ings.

In Ot­tawa, op­po­si­tion mem­bers rep­re­sent­ing Que­bec rid­ings called on the Trudeau govern­ment to agree to Le­gault’s re­quest.

“The re­quest is to­tally ap­pro­pri­ate, and I hope that the govern­ment is go­ing be at­ten­tive to this re­quest,” New Demo­crat MP Matthew Dube said.

Con­ser­va­tive MP Pierre PaulHus said Que­bec should not be left with the bill for what he called “the mis­takes and the fail­ures of the prime min­is­ter.”

Gabriel Ste-Marie of the Bloc Québé­cois said Ot­tawa should be com­pen­sat­ing Que­bec rather than help­ing Al­berta buy rail cars to ship oil.

The Le­gault govern­ment this week an­nounced plans to re­duce an­nual im­mi­gra­tion to the prov­ince by 20 per cent start­ing next year. De­spite its planned re­duc­tions, Que­bec is set to re­ceive about $550 mil­lion in 2019 – up from about $490 mil­lion in 2018.

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